Precision Dairy Farming in the Netherlands
Brad Heins, Associate Professor, Dairy Science
This past June, Glenda Pereira, Hannah Phillips, and myself from the WCROC attended the International Conference on Precision Dairy Farming in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. Marcia Endres (Dept. of Animal Science) and Jim Salfer and James Paulson (UMN Extension) from the University of Minnesota also attended the conference to learn about new and upcoming technologies in the dairy industry.
Leeuwarden, located in Friesland (the ancestral home of the Holstein-Friesian dairy breed) is about a two-and-a-half-hour train ride north of Amsterdam. While it was raining on the train ride north to Leeuwarden, we were able to see the vast numbers of Holstein dairy cattle and sheep as we entered Friesland.
The first day of the conference opened with a few key notes presentations detailing how farmers could use precision technologies in pasture-based dairy systems and for detection of health disorders in cattle. That afternoon, I presented a poster entitled “Rumination Sensors in an Organic Grazing System.” You can view my poster here. Many at the conference were intrigued by my poster and had many questions related to sensors in pasture-based systems, as well as general questions about organic dairy production systems in the United States.
Tuesday’s oral sessions were filled with presentations using precision technologies for health disorders, udder health and reproduction, welfare, feeding, and in automatic milking systems. That evening we had the chance to socialize during a welcome reception and my graduate students and I braved the rain to take a boat ride through the canals of Leeuwarden. We also visited the “Us Mem”, a bronze sculpture of a Friesian black and white cow in Leewarden.
On Wednesday we visited various dairy farms that showcased precision technologies. The first farm we visited was Mts. Den Hartog, in Kollum, Friesland, and they showcased the CowManager technology. This farm milked 500 Holstein cows with a 4.5% fat and 4.7% protein, and they showcased how they utilized the CowManager system. Here at the WCROC, we have CowManager on 170 cows. The second farm had 8 DeLaval VMS robots for 540 cows. The farm showcased their Herd Navigator system that checks the milk for health disorders, and the VMS Spectra that provides body condition scores of cattle with a camera as the cows enter the robot. The third farm had only been milking cows in their GEA Mione robots for 2 weeks. The facility was built new and provided an opportunity to see view a new dairy farm in the Netherlands.
On Wednesday evening we had the opportunity to again socialize with conference attendees at the Dairy Campus in Leeuwarden. The Dairy Campus is a brand new research and conference facility with 500 cows that provides a place to conduct research and training of students for innovative projects in the dairy industry. The Dairy Campus had new robotic feeding technologies that were very interesting to observe.
On Thursday, the conference concluded with more presentations on precision dairy farming technologies. We made a lot of great new contacts in the dairy industry and we will continue to work with precision dairy farming technologies at the WCROC dairy in the years to come.